Recent news reports of the Food and Drug Administration looking into a possible link between canine heart disease and a diet of ‘grain-free’ dog food has some pet owners calling their vets to see if they should change their dog’s food.
In July 2018, the FDA announced that it had begun investigating reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free,” which contained a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds (pulses), and/or potatoes in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as main ingredients (listed within the first 10 ingredients in the ingredient list, before vitamins and minerals). Many of these case reports included breeds of dogs not previously known to have a genetic predisposition to the disease. The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a collaboration of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories, continue to investigate this potential association. Based on the data collected and analyzed thus far, the agency believes that the potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors. Early reports from the veterinary cardiology community indicate that the dogs consistently ate these foods as their primary source of nutrition for time periods ranging from months to years, according to the FDA’s website.
We spoke to Dr. Jessica Coote at Larchmont Animal Clinic last week to see if we should consider changing food for our dog Bailey, an eight year old shepherd mix who’s breed is on the FDA list of dog breeds susceptible to canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and who currently eats Taste of the Wild, one of the brands being reviewed.
Fortunately Bailey is in good health and shows no symptoms of heart disease which, according to the FDA include, decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse. But Dr. Coote said she prefers dog food brands that are tested and reviewed by vets if possible because there’s no way to know what’s in most brands. She recommended we slowly transition Bailey to a new food, mixing it 25% new food with the old food, then 50%, then 75% so Bailey will accept the new food. Coote said some dogs will reject a new food just because it’s different.
Alejandra Solis, the manager of the Barking Lot where we buy Bailey’s food, told us she has gotten questions from pet owners. Some are changing foods but others are sticking with their dog’s favorite brand and adding vitamins and minerals to supplement the food which can balance out the “grain free” diets and may reduce their susceptibility to the canine heart disease.
In June the FDA updated their report without making any conclusions or recalling any pet food but is continuing to investigate the matter and collect data from pet owners and veterinarians.